The ruling Awami League has finally fought back in the third phase of upazila election, outshining its archrival BNP.
In yesterday's polls in 81 upazilas, which were marked by violence, capture of polling stations and ballot-box stuffing, the AL-backed candidates won 37 chairman posts and the BNP favourites 27. The election results in two upazilas were withheld, while that of one upazila was not available yet.
The BNP's polls boycott in eight upazilas apparently came as blessings for the AL as its aspirants bagged all the posts there.
The BNP's key ally Jamaat-e-Islami secured seven chairman posts.
Even Liberal Democratic Party won in one upazila and PCJSS in two, but the Jatiya Party, the main opposition party in parliament, got none.
The rebels who gave much pain to both the major parties performed badly again, as in the previous two phases, securing only four chairman posts.
In the two phases last month, the BNP-backed candidates put up a good showing. In the 213 upazila parishads, the BNP's contenders won 93, AL 81 and Jamaat 20 chairman posts.
In this situation, the third phase was crucial for the ruling AL. Its grassroots were hell bent on reducing the gap with their rivals.
The BNP too tried its best to maintain the momentum.
In yesterday's polls, over 1.33 crore voters were entitled to elect a chairman and two vice-chairmen, including one reserved for women, in every upazila.
The results show the AL's popularity has declined in these 81 upazilas. In the polls held in January 2009, the AL-backed candidates won 51 out of the 81 chairman posts. The BNP-blessed candidates managed to win only 11.
The 2009 upazila polls were held three weeks after the December 29, 2008 parliamentary polls in which the AL won a landslide victory.
This time, the upazila elections come only one and a half months after the January 5 controversial parliamentary polls held amid a boycott by the BNP-led alliance.
Therefore, the upazila polls, though non-partisan in nature, have appeared as a barometer to judge the popularity of the political parties.
In battle of ballots yesterday, the AL faced some shocking defeats. Its contender in Tungipara upazila in Gopalganj, which fell in the parliamentary constituency of AL chief and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, suffered a humiliating defeat to its rebel candidate by a margin of 19,000 votes.
Gazi Golam Mustafa, an AL rebel and also a member of Tungipara upazila AL, polled 30,965 votes. His challenger Solaiman Biswas, joint general secretary of Tungipara AL and also sitting chairman of the upazila, was able to get only 11, 923 votes.
In Kishoreganj Sadar upazila, which fell in the parliamentary seat of AL General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam, the AL blessed candidate faced a defeat to his rival backed by BNP.
BNP-supported candidate Shariful Islam Sharif won the polls bagging 61,794 while AL-backed candidate Syed Ashfaqul Islam, cousin of Syed Ashraf, was able to secure 47, 978 votes.
To ensure win of Ashfaq, the AL had expelled its rebel candidate.